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What is the Title VII Civil Rights Act?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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The Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964, commonly referred to as the Equal Employment Opportunity Act or the Equal Opportunity Act, ensures there is no discrimination in the workplace in the United States. This section of legislation specifically names race, national origin, color, religion and gender as qualities that cannot be discriminated against. Companies that discriminate against people on the basis of these qualities can face severe legal repercussions under United States law. The Title VII Civil Rights Act also makes sexual harassment in the workplace illegal.

Title VII is one of the laws that came out of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964. A company with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate against employees or potential employees on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion or gender. Further amendments to the law have made discrimination because of pregnancy and sexual harassment illegal. Protection on the basis of sexual orientation is not currently specified under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though many states have enacted laws that protect workers of all sexual orientations.

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A company that fails to hire or that fires an employee on the basis of one of the named parameters is in violation of Title VII. Additionally, employers may not deny an employee opportunities, such as training, raises or promotions or give preferential treatment to an employee based on their race, national origin, color, religion or gender. Federal protection of employees covered by The Title VII Civil Rights Act also extends to involvement in unions or other employment organizations.

The Title VII Civil Rights Act has been expanded to give protection to additional groups, and the protections have been extended to other areas since the bill’s conception in 1964. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted to protect workers from discrimination based on age. This law was designed to protect older employees from being fired or not hired for jobs in favor of younger, and often less expensive, employees. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, enacted in 2009, extends the protection of Title VII to compensation. Discrimination with regard to compensation is now illegal in the United States under The Title VII Civil Rights Act.

There are a few types of employers that are granted partial or whole exemption from Title VII. These include Native American Tribes, private nonprofit organizations and religious groups. The federal government was also exempt from Title VII when the law was first enacted but has since lost its exemption.

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